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Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 4

Day 3 – Aust V Worcestershire

Things are as good as they have been since Mr. Cricket retired. 5/344 dec. in 51 overs at 6 per over. At stumps, Worcester 1/64 in reply. The wicket is a dead set shirtfront in a cloudless sky (no swing), so the Captain took full advantage in a style studded rapid century (124).  Lucky batted with him for as long as he could, thankful that The Captain had stopped complaining about his back.  As he said, “that’s a real pleasing thing for himself and all of us as a unit.” The Captain’s constant complaints in the middle had begun to irk Lucky and Mr Bean, who often bat with Him. Lucky said it was more distracting than a big blowie smacking against a window on a stinking summer’s day. Mr Bean said he could feel it eating him from the inside. It got so bad he ran out The Captain accidentally. Then he felt guilty and ran himself out, or so he said.

sarahThe gears are clicking into place one by one.  Coach2.0 is dealing with player management and blame culture, to let The Captain concentrate on cricket and take the pressure off his spine. Mr Bean has agreed to stop looking at his bat, or tugging at a flapping trouser leg, when he is outed and not to expect the Umpire to recall him to the crease.  Sarah said the female audience loathes his “I didn’t do it, Sir,” attitude, especially if he has been grassed without scoring. Coach asked Mr Bean to forget it. “Focus on a hundred” he said.

Lucky reluctantly agreed not to pack his ears with cotton wool buds now that The Captain will be calling the quick single from the other end.  Coach2.0 figured the buds drowned out every sound apart from Lucky’s own palpitating heart which somehow slowed to two beats per ball when he was facing. This sort of mental hibernation stopped him rotating the strike, upset the non-striker and made both vulnerable to the lazy shot or quick call.  Hollywood, who heard it all, promised not to say another word in celebration. He said the final heavy barrier had now been removed from a flood of fancied test centuries.

Yet Coach felt there was more. Over a fourth lager in a Worcester local after stumps, Lucky confided that he really used the buds to block sledging from the spinner and fellow wrist flickers in the slips cordons.  “Ask Wicky about sledging,” he said, inviting an unmoved Wicky to join the discussion.  Coach escaped to the bathroom and climbed out an unlocked window to a back alley to join The Freak, Mr Darcy and Mantis, who were seated on milk crates talking tactics and sucking lager freely through rubber hoses connected to a spare keg. Their pockets bulged with used Dukes.

Coach sat among them to listen to the friendly banter.

“All’s well, Coach” said Mr Darcy, thinking this was more like Henry V before the battle of Agincourt than an Egyptian coffee house.

“I can see that.  You happy few, you band of brothers”, he replied.

“Is the batting line-up clear?”

Coach smiled “I think it is time we left,” he said sucking air from one of the offered pipes.

Dust to Dust Rocket Man Final TBlame is an easy crutch.   Sarah finally dealt with RocketMan’s revelation that he could have played for England in 2008 (it could have been 1770 for all she cared), noting that his brother Darren, an ex-roof tiler from Grimsby turned greyhound trainer, had fronted once for England. Sarah did all the talking and he did all the listening. RocketMan said he felt better – the night sweats might start to ease. Coach2.0 told him it might help to throw off the extra blanket.

This simplified everything in a way that Labour’s Ed Milibrand might wish for his shadow cabinet. Prof and I drafted a letter to Ed outlining three rules for cabinet solidarity based on recent experiences. Rule No 1: Do not flat with union leaders. Rule No 2: Do not ask for favours from union leaders or newspaper barons. Nothing is free. Rule No 3: If you do something silly, resign once. I shall accept it.

Prof submitted it to Sarah. She added Rule No 4: Labour leaders can never be seen to stand in the muddy fields of Glastonbury. Smell the grass you lot!

“Is Sarah the Mole?” I asked later.

“Unlikely. She is too loyal. She wants the Urn more than Coach,” said the Prof. “She used to go out with an English essayist and bard.  He was always quoting Shakespeare.  She hated it”

“What about the WAGS?”

“For tomorrow,” Sarah whispered through the keyhole. “Nightie night”

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

COMING SOON: Coach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (Available 7 July 2013)

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish

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